UC Berkeley > Guidelines for Responding to Death > Preparing for Your Own Death

Practical Preparations for Your Own Eventual Death

You can ease your family's suffering by carefully planning for your own dying and eventual death. The more specific the plan and the arrangements, the less stress family members will experience at the time. UC Human Resources has produced a useful booklet that anyone can obtain for free entitled " Preparing for the Inevitable " . This booklet can be found on the Life Events page of the Benefits web site at http://atyourservice.ucop.edu/forms_pubs/misc/prepinevit.pdf
Make sure that you have provided your department with your own emergency
contact(s) information.

It is helpful to keep key personal, medical and financial information accessible. Many people find it useful to collect relevant information in one master file. It can be divided in the following suggested categories, and include the following information:

Personal and family

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Citizenship papers
  • Divorce/separation papers
  • Adoption papers
  • Social security numbers/cards
  • Passports (numbers and expiration dates)
  • Driver's licenses (number, expiration dates)
  • Military records


  • Names/address/telephone numbers of healthcare professionals
  • Healthcare proxies/living wills
  • Medications (dosages, name of prescribing physicians, pharmacy, address/telephone
  • Address and phone numbers of hospitals of choice
  • Medicare numbers
  • Medicaid numbers (caseworker numbers, address/telephone)
  • Social worker or caseworker names and contact information


  • Income sources (retirement and/or disability benefits, Social Security, etc.)
  • Financial assets (institution names, account numbers, address/telephone, form of ownership, current value) of cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, money market funds, retirement and pension plans, IRAs, annuities, life insurance
  • Real Estate (property addresses, location of deeds, form of ownership, current value
  • Other assets (location of items/titles/documents/form of ownership, current value) including automobiles, boats, inheritances, precious gems, collectibles, household items, hidden valuables/items in storage, loans to family members/friends
  • Liabilities (Creditor institutions, address/telephone, approximate debt) of mortgages, personal loans, credit cards, notes, IOUs, other).

It is also useful to collect names, addresses and phone numbers of professional advisors such as bankers, attorneys, clergy, stockbrokers and insurance agents. Also include in this category names and relevant dates of past employers, names and numbers of close friends, club memberships and landlord information.

If you store important documents in a safe deposit box, make sure that someone close to you has a key to the box. Documents, such as original copies of wills, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, etc. would better be kept with an attorney or in another safe, but accessible place.

Prepare a will and update it as your life circumstances change. Self-help legal books, web sites (such as NOLO), software programs or lawyers can help with this.

It is never easy to think about funeral arrangements, but considering them in advance saves your family from coping with them at the time of need. Consider what effect your choice might have upon your survivors. Let your partner or your family know of your wishes verbally and in writing.

The vast majority of Americans choose earth burial, but nearly a fifth now choose cremation. In some areas of the country, cremation is chosen in 40 percent of all final dispositions. Five percent of Americans choose entombment.

Some memorial societies can help in planning a funeral, and locating a funeral home with reasonable prices. For more information, contact the Funeral Consumers Alliance, P.O. Box 10, Hinesburg, VT 05461. The Neptune Society is also a useful source of information about cremation.

It is also useful to designate someone to make medical decisions for if you become ill and cannot make them yourself. You will need a durable power of attorney for health care, which must be witnessed and kept in a safe and accessible place. Please see this site for an easily retrievable durable power of attorney for health care form. http://www.help4srs.org/end_of_life/yourway/yourwayprof.htm



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The Guidelines for Responding to Death have been prepared at the request of the Chancellor by a campus workgroup made up of staff, student, and faculty representatives.

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